By Leighton Tanaka, TIWP Student
You do not know me, nor do I know you. Well, not really. But he always talked about you.
The first time I talked to him he changed my life. When a strange old man moved into the apartment next door I’d never dreamed I’d talk to him. He always came outside onto his balcony at exactly 8:15 and stared out into the city.
I didn’t see what he found so appealing. The city is grimy, doused in the thick black soot of a hundred years of living. The windows are cloudy, the sky forever engulfed in fog. And the people are just as dirty as the scenery. Whenever I went outside I just felt regret that I had to live here. Here, where all of the filth lives.
But one day I went out on my balcony as well. I don’t know why, I knew what would be there, just the cold and empty shell of the stained city. I guess I had hoped that something would be different, that I could see what he was so fascinated with. But I didn’t.
He heard me and called out to me. I hadn’t wanted to answer, but I did. He told me that he sat out there every day looking at the people. I asked him why in the world he would want to do that. He laughed at me and told me that he liked to see their stories, their lives. Like a couple he had seen walking around together for a couple of weeks. They had walked together hand in hand and unlock their car, one would open the door for another and they would drive off. He told me that one didn’t own a scarf so he would share his. He told me that sometimes they would bring a tiny hyper dog or an elderly entitled woman.
I told him that all I saw were too many unhappy people, I told him that it wasn’t worth it.
He showed me that although there is pain there is also beauty. That sometimes one would be alone, that they would be crying, but they would always come together again. He taught me second chances.
The first time I met him I thought he was crazy. But now I’m crazy right alongside him. And so I urge you to come visit your father. I know you’re scared that he will throw you out again, but I want to tell you that he loves you, that he remembered the songs you sang and hummed them, he kept you with him wherever he went, he kept your scarf near his bed, waiting, hoping you would come and get it. Because every day he watches you get in your car and drive off and hopes that you will drive to him.
The Next-Door Neighbor of Wilson Brown